It’s no secret that New York City is synonymous with style. Hey, it’s called the Fashion Capital of the World for a reason! (Sorry, Paris; sorry, Milan!) But it also happens to be one of the best places in the world to travel with kids. The bright lights of this big city captivate children, but more than that, there are just so many things to do it’s impossible to be bored for one second. While some of these activities may be reserved for a true treat or special occasion, every single one is worth it—for the experience, the memories and the learning.
To set yourself up for an amazingly stylish stay, book a room at the Conrad New York in the heart of the Financial District, which is also close to some of the city’s iconic landmark neighbourhoods, such as Soho and TriBeCa. Having lived in New York City for over a decade myself, I can definitely say that staying downtown is the perfect place—you can feel the heartbeat of the city and get everywhere so easily. To start your adventure off in my hometown, I’ve highlighted my absolute favourite experiences to try.
Ride Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn
image: Getty/Spencer Platt
- Best time of year to go: Spring or summer.
- Why kids love it: Around and around they go! Some of the horses go up and down, too!
- Why parents love it: This combines history and art: the antique carousel is one of the oldest in the country, built in 1922, lovingly restored, and enclosed in a glass pavilion designed by Jean Nouvel. Each ride is just $2.
- Don’t miss: The nautically themed Main Street Playground which is just a few metres away, or toss some rocks into the river at the small Pebble Beach.
- Insider’s tip: In the summer the horses take a rest on Tuesdays—no rides that day! The closest bathroom is near the playground.
Get a gorgeous manicure at Tenoverten
- Best time of year to go: Anytime but during the September and February fashion weeks—when editors throng here to get glam before shows.
- Why kids love it: They offer you an iPad to use while you’re having your service.
- Why parents love it: Airy high ceilings, brushed metal fixtures, old-school sliding loft doors. You can relax in a comfy custom-made armchair while you indulge in some time out from sightseeing.
- Don’t miss: Their big selection of “3 free” and “5 free” polishes that are devoid of carcenogenics and other chemicals typically found in nail polish—perfect for kids’ little hands and feet (and yours, too. Obvi.).
- Insider’s tip: Wondering what beauty service at Tenoverten tops them all? Find out at StayInspired.com.
Take a boat ride around Manhattan
image: Getty/Chris Tobin
- Best time of year to go: Spring or summer, so you can feel the wind in your hair.
- Why kids love it: All aboard! Circling the city in a huge boat feels really special and offers amazing views.
- Why parents love it: On the classic Best of NYC tour offered by Circle Line, you’ll see a ton of sites in one trip without leaving the boat, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Harlem, South Street Seaport, Grant’s Tomb and the Little Red Lighthouse.
- Don’t miss: After your journey, head just a few blocks north up the West Side to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. (There are combo ticket deals too.)
- Insider’s tip: Looking for something less expensive but still sea-worthy? Take the Staten Island Ferry back and forth as much as you want—it’s free.
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride in Central Park
image: Getty/Chris Mellor
- Best time of year to go: Holidays/winter—when the snow-covered trees and twinkling make the whole park magical.
- Why kids love it: There’s something fairy-tale magical about the sound of hooves going clippity-clop.
- Why parents love it: Someone else is doing the driving!
- Don’t miss: The interesting park and city history your driver will undoubtedly be able to tell you—if you just ask.
- Insider’s tip: If it’s below 7°C, the horses can’t work, so don’t look for a ride on the most frigid days. Also, the horses can’t work when it’s hotter than 31°C.
Go ice skating at Rockefeller Center
image: Getty/Brian Lawrence
- Best time of year to go: Around Christmas/New Year’s.
- Why kids love it: They get an amazing view of the enormous, brightly lit Christmas tree.
- Why parents love it: It tires kids out and makes for some amazing memories.
- Don’t miss: If you’re hungry, have lunch at the Rock Center Cafe, with beautiful views of the rink.
- Insider’s tip: Get the most amazing cup of hot chocolate afterward at the Jacques Torres location underground in Rock Center.
Ogle the gorgeous buds at the flower markets on 28th Street
image: Getty/Leela Cyd
- Best time of year to go: Spring or summer.
- Why kids love it: Nature-loving children will enjoy the amazing range of blooms on display.
- Why parents love it: It’s a wonderful early morning activity that doesn’t involve cartoons!
- Don’t miss: When you’re done, head over to the Fat Witch Bakery in the Chelsea Market and treat yourselves to a few of these decadent squares.
- Insider’s tip: Arrive early. The market opens at 5:30 am and individual shops begin to close up by 10:30 am.
Take an art workshop at the Museum of Modern Art
- Best time of year to go: Anytime—but it’s perfect for rainy days!
- Why kids love it: Hands-on creativity is way more fun than simply staring at paintings.
- Why parents love it: It’s a great way to integrate the artwork they see at the museum with real-life projects.
- Don’t miss: Grab a bite (or a beer!) at the Terrace 5 cafe, which enjoys a spectacular fifth-floor view of the sculpture garden.
- Insider’s tip: Pick up some awesome art supplies for later at the four-story Lee’s Art Shop, just four blocks north.
Go see the New York City Ballet
image: Getty/Educational Images
- Best time of year to go: Around the holidays, to see the New York City Ballet perform George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.
- Why kids love it: The constant motion and the extravagant costumes are mesmerising.
- Why parents love it: Tchaikovsky’s musical score always takes your breath away.
- Don’t miss: Take pictures in front of the iconic fountain in front of Lincoln Center.
- Insider’s tip: Save a taxi ride and take the train (the 1 train) to the 66th Street/Lincoln Center station; the theatre is right there!
Watch an outdoor movie at night on the Brooklyn Waterfront
image: Getty/Andalou Agency
- Best time of year to go: Summer.
- Why kids love it: Staying up late + star gazing + great movies = what’s not to love?
- Why parents love it: Introducing your kids to some of the most classic films (as well as newer ones too) in an amazingly beautiful setting. Oh, and it’s FREE!
- Don’t miss: Grab an ice cream cone from the legendary Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
- Insider’s tip: Arrive early to stake out a sweet spot on the grass —there’s music starting at 6:00 pm; the film is at sunset.
People-watch on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum
image: Getty/Rudi Von Briel
- Best time of year to go: Summer or autumn so you can linger without shivering.
- Why kids love it: You feel like you’re at the centre of it all—dogs, babies, students, everyone—and they’ll love the tempting food carts nearby offering iconic NYC fare like hot dogs, hot pretzels and roasted nuts.
- Why parents love it: It’s one of the best ways to learn about and appreciate a city—just by sitting and watching it all go by. Bring a sketchpad if your child is artistic.
- Don’t miss: The actual museum! Also the fine print: While the suggested ticket price is $25 for adults and $12 for students, it’s actually a recommended amount. You pay what you want.
- Insider’s tip: Feel free to sketch inside too—but ONLY pencils, no pens or paint. Learn more about visiting The Met without fighting the crowds at StayInspired.com.
See the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
image: Getty/Spencer Platt
- Best time of year to go: Mid-April to mid-May.
- Why kids love it: Watching the cherry blossoms fall during breezes is like walking amidst pink snowflakes.
- Why parents love it: There’s no better backdrop for a gorgeous family picture than in front of a blossoming pink tree.
- Don’t miss: The Garden Shop, which offers a huge selection of nature and gardening toys, books and crafts for kids.
- Insider’s tip: Don’t wear your white jeans. You can sit on the lawn in the Cherry Esplanade, but only directly on the grass (no blankets or chairs allowed).
Go shopping in the Meatpacking District
image: Getty/Hero Images
- Best time of year to go: Spring or autumn.
- Why kids love it: It’s not only about grown-up fashion in this fashionable area; there are dozens of small boutiques selling unique clothes and toys for kids.
- Why parents love it: Getting away from mall stores is a welcome break. Supporting small businesses and walking along the cobblestone streets is a slice of urban bliss.
- Don’t miss: Spend some time on The Highline while you’re there; it starts at Gansevoort Street.
- Insider’s tip: Not sure of where to eat? Pop into at the Apple store on W 14th Street and use an iPad to read through Yelp reviews. Get your must-visit list of shops and eats in the Meatpacking District at StayInspired.com.
Sink your teeth into a Magnolia Bakery cupcake
image: Getty/Narinuk Images
- Best time of year to go: Anytime, but it’s nice to linger outside in the summer while you eat your treat—especially at the original location on Bleecker St in the West Village.
- Why kids love it: The pastel-hued cupcakes in almost every flavour are like catnip to kids.
- Why parents love it: These are the cupcakes made famous by the ladies of Sex & the City, and they are as amazing as ever.
- Don’t miss: The banana pudding cupcake, stuffed with vanilla wafers, is almost as good as—or better than—the iconic cupcake. Trust.
- Insider’s tip: Every day features a special “daily cupcake” so you can sample a new one for every day you’re in town. Also: There’s a location near the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, so you can always finish a fun skate session with a cupcake!
Have you been to NYC?
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